Peppers – vegetable or fruit?

Vegetables or fruits?

Vegetables or fruits?

There are NO vegetables. Everything we call a vegetable is actually a fruit. So said the host of the TV show On The Spot this past weekend.

What? I’m a farm kid. I grew up around agriculture and spent most of my professional career in public relations working with clients who served the ag industry. I had never heard this before.

This was such a provocative statement, stated so definitively, that I had to do the research. First stop: Wikipedia. The answer was fascinating, taking into account botany, the culinary arts, and the law.

Botanically – (upon which On The Spot must have made its pronouncement) – the ovary of a flowering plant is the fruit. Since both fruits (peaches, plums, oranges) and vegetables (eggplants, bell peppers, tomatoes) come from the flowering part of the plant, they are botanically speaking all really fruits. 

Culinary – In the grocery story and kitchen, fruits and vegetables are mutually exclusive. Fruits are the edible part of the plant with a sweet flavor. Vegetables are the edible part of a plant with a savory flavor.

Legally – When in doubt, the law may intervene as it did with the tomato in Nix v Hedden, a case argued before the Supreme Court in 1893. The outcome? The tomato is a vegetable. The case had such import because commodities are taxed as vegetables in particular jurisdictions and pocketbooks would hurt depending on where the tomato came down.

To be fair to the Supreme Court justices, while they declared the tomato a vegetable for tax purposes, they acknowledged it was botanically a fruit. How’s that for standing firmly on both sides of the debate?

My research didn’t stop with Wikipedia (a cautionary tale for all). The Mayo Clinic points out there really are vegetables – those foods that come from parts of the plant other than the flower, e.g. celery (stem), lettuce (leaves), and beets, carrots and potatoes (roots.)

All this may be a bit of a diversion, but we writers like to be precise in our use of language. And as one speaker arguing for a classical education opined, It’s important to know the rules before you break them.

Offering another, particularly timely, perspective on the topic, a Facebook post weighed in on the topic today: Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

I know all this new-found knowledge/wisdom will come into play in my writing at some point. I can hardly wait.

Is there serendipity in my geraniums?

GeraniumsMy gardens tend toward shade plants with one exception, a pot that sits on the one consistently sunny point of our deck. That pot is planted with geraniums.

Always geraniums. They like sun. They’re easy. They’re pretty. When the geraniums are planted, I feel as though the summer can really begin.

Over the years, I’ve tried various techniques for overwintering the plants without success.

Last fall, the pink flowers were so pretty, I decided to try again. I moved the geraniums into the basement and charged my husband with watering them every once in a while as he walks by on his way to his office.

Apparently giving the task to him was the way to keep the plants alive. Not only alive, but actively growing all winter. The leaves became so large he thought some strange volunteer plant had invaded. He was only convinced otherwise when the plant began to shoot out flower stalks and set blooms.

The fact that these plants prospered over the winter feels like a good omen to me.

1635 x 2453 image. Download and use as needed.

The cover of my new novel Go Away Home features geraniums on a window sill. When I shared the cover on Facebook, many commented that they liked the cover because of the geraniums: their grandmothers always had geraniums and they think about times past when they see that flower.

Now that it’s warming up, I’m about to move the geraniums back out to the deck. In July, my book will make its public appearance.

It seems like serendipity, doesn’t it, that my geranium plant made it through the winter and that geraniums are on my book cover?

A tale of two cemeteries

Wilmington National Cemetery

Wilmington National Cemetery

Every grave holds a story. That’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to cemeteries. So many lives. So many stories. Yet we know so little. Only tiny bits of information. Names that may suggest country of origin. Dates that attest to a life long-lived or to one cut short by a childhood disease or war. A line may suggest relationships: husband, father. We’re left to guess at all the rest.

In Wilmington, NC, we found two cemeteries that told larger stories of people as a whole. As we drove down Market Street, we spotted the pristine white stones and regimental layout of a national cemetery. Equally interesting was an historical marker pointing toward a Confederate cemetery.

At the Wilmington National Cemetery, we were fortunate to meet the cemetery superintendent, a former member of the marine corps. He shared that the cemetery was established to hold the remains of Union soldiers from the Civil War. Of the 2,039 Civil War soldiers interred, 698 are known and 1,341 are unknown.

The stones of black soldiers who fought in the war are marked “U.S.C.T” – United States Colored Troops. The officers who led these colored troops were white. Their stones also say U.S.T.C. You can tell they were white men because their stones also include an officer rank. Black men were never officers.

The cemetery also includes the remains of a group of Puerto Rican laborers who died in the influenza pandemic of 1918.

Stones tell the stories of men and women who served in subsequent wars: Korea, Vietnam, World War I and World War II.

The cemetery is full or almost so. Family members may still be interred in the same graves as their service men and women.

Oakdale Cemetery

Oakdale Cemetery

We moved on to the Oakdale Cemetery, thinking it was a comparable space for those who fought on the side of the Confederacy. It was that and so much more.

When we drove through the cemetery gates, we realized we’d come upon a much different land – a cemetery unlike any either of us had ever seen before.

Driveways curved through trees hung with Spanish moss. Cement stair steps bearing family names led up to raised grave areas. Canopies over freshly dug graves told us this cemetery is still active.

Unlike the military-straight lines of the National Cemetery, Oakdale graves have been laid out following the curve of the land. The tropical climate of the area encourages lush vegetation to over-grow the stones and black moss to make even newer stones appear ancient. The apparent haphazard layout of the graves and stones makes mowing by machine impossible.

Oakdale is designed in a Victorian mode. Sections were planned as a maze of curved avenues winding through the hilly terrain. Native and landscape vegetation interspersed by iron fences and garden furniture contribute to a garden look. In the mid-nineteenth century, people used cemeteries as parks where people strolled, picnicked and socialized.

As we drove through the cemetery, we did not think about this garden aspect. The gray skies and rain contributed to an over-riding sense of foreboding. We agreed the site would be the perfect place for a very scary movie.

While Oakdale does contain the Confederate Memorial Monument (which I realize as I write we didn’t see), the 100+ acres include much more. Within the cemetery are the graves of 400 who died to a yellow fever epidemic, a Hebrew section, Masonic and Odd Fellows sections, and the graves of political, business and social leaders. Notable among those buried at Oakdale are: a female Confederate spy, North Carolina’s first governor, and broadcaster David Brinkley.

Every grave told a story. These cemeteries did, too.

Lots of tomatoes? Try this salsa!

Ready to get canning.

Ready to get canning.

Zucchini has a bad reputation for producing far more than anyone can eat. Not so much in my garden. For us, the producers are cucumbers and tomatoes. Since I’m bringing in a large colander loaded with tomatoes every day, I’ve kicked into canning mode. Yesterday I geared up for salsa.

If you’re enjoying an abundance of tomatoes this year, you might like to try this recipe:

Salsa

20 cups skinned/chopped tomatoes
8 cups chopped onions
3 bell peppers, diced
7 hot banana peppers (no seeds)
8 jalapeno peppers, diced, no seeds
1 1/4 cup sugar
4 T chili powder
5 T salt
2 1/2 cup white vinegar
4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cup corn starch

Set aside two cups tomato puree and add corn starch. Mix well. Combine all other ingredients and cook for 20 minutes or more. Add tomato/cornstarch mixture and cook for approximately one hour. Stir often and watch the heat. Once the corn starch is added, it has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Sterilize pint jars and lids. Fill hot jars with salsa and seal. The recipe makes 12-14 pints, depending on how generously I measure things.

Notes:  How hot this salsa winds up depends on the size and heat of the peppers. This batch will be plenty hot because I used larger than normal jalapeno peppers. But then I only had half enough banana peppers, so who knows?

End of the day - 14 pints of salsa and 3 quarts of tomatoes.

End of the day – 14 pints of salsa and 3 quarts of tomatoes.

Other than crying a million tears while I chop onions and peppers, and having to watch the pot so the salsa doesn’t burn, it’s an easy recipe. And very tasty. We use it for everything you’d normally use salsa on. In addition, I like to add a pint when I make a pot of chili. That really adds zip.

The recipe is courtesy of a niece, Angela, via her mother, my sister-in-law, Anita. I’ve been making it for years.

I’ve also blogged about my favorite refrigerator pickle recipe. If you have cukes in abundance this year, hop on over and check it out. Super easy and takes no time at all.

I hope you’re enjoying your garden as much as we are ours. Happy summer!

What seeds have you planted?

Tulip BrickSweeps of purple hyacinths. Multitudes of candy apple red, neon yellow, and peppermint stripped tulips. Majestic blue and white flag irises. A host of golden daffodils. Like magic, every spring my garden fills with this vast array of flowers and colors.

 

Recently, I woke in the middle of the night thinking about the flowers that burst into bloom each spring and it popped into my mind, You doofus! You prepared the soil, planted the bulbs, cleaned off debris in the fall. You did much to have the spring garden you love. Yet, as every farmer knows, the crop comes like the gift it is.

 

Twenty years ago or more, I opened my mind and heart to dreaming. I made a list, writing down all the things I could think of that I wanted to do someday. I remember two things on that list – bike all the trails in Iowa and write a book.

 

At the time, I knew little of what goes into writing a book, but I assumed, because I was a public relations counselor, that the book would address some aspect of that profession.  Even that seemed an unlikely dream.

 

Biking all the trails in Iowa was, however, imminently doable. I loved biking and could visualize weekend trips to all corners of the state as I pedaled away the miles.

 

It amuses me that the idea visualized clearly at the time is one that fell on rocky ground. Other activities became more interesting. I wasn’t willing to commit the time as more and more miles were added to trail maps.

 

Meanwhile, the idea that was most undefined, the one left to germinate in the dark recesses of my mind, is the one that took root. But, surprise! When the idea poked through to my consciousness, it was not a business book. Rather, I saw signs of a memoir about growing up on a farm in the middle of the country in the middle of the 20th Century. It took work – skill learning, multiple drafts, disappointment, pruning, more effort – to nurture that little sprout into a beautiful book.

 

And it took something else, something I could never have made happen. The right mentors, the right colleagues, at the right time. And time – time for the demanding work of putting one word after another on a page.

 

As with a gardener, a writer is always dependent on things outside of her control. How could I have known that writing down those long-ago dreams is like planting seeds. And that decades later, one would push to the surface. And now, only a few years later, another book, a novel set in Iowa during WWI is about to emerge.

 

In the midst of the flowering beauty of my garden, I bask in the outcome, forgetting what needed to happen for it to happen – seed planted in good soil, time for germination, and a combination of hard work and grace.

 

Whether one seed germinates, puts down roots and grows is a function of so many things. Moisture, seed vigor, nutrients. Over much a gardener has no control. But most certainly, the seed has to go into the ground.

 

Planting seeds. That’s what we do. Whether those seeds go into the garden or take root in my mind.  Whether the payoff is in a few weeks or next spring or decades later.

 

I wonder, sometimes, what else was on the list, but alas, it’s lost. What I have learned to trust, though, is that in this world where there are a million seeds for every plant that grows, so too, there will always be dream seeds I can plant, and then, when conditions are favorable, one will grow. When the season is right.

 

How does spring inspire you?

It’s fall and during fall we think of endings. The end of summer. The end of good weather. The end of vacations. So it’s with delight that I attended the launch of a new book that focuses on spring–a time when things are beginning.

Spring – Women’s Inspiration for the Season of Hope and New Beginnings is the second book in a four-book series edited by Debra Landwehr Engle and Diane Glass.

According to Glass, Spring speaks to the yearning within all of us for bringing new possibilities to life. In this new book, 36 writers share poems, essays and stories with their experiences and insights into dreaming of and preparing for growth, giving birth, and nourishing the tender new shoots of life.

Winter – Women’s Stories, Poems and Inspiration for the Season of Rest and Renewal launched the series earlier this year. Glass and Engle say the final two volumes featuring Summer and Fall will be published yet this year.

The four books share women’s diverse voices around themes central to Tending Your Inner Garden, a program of spiritual and creative growth that has guided hundreds of women internationally in finding meaning and purpose in life.

Here’s one essay from Spring, reprinted with permission from the author.

My Bucket List

By Pattie Flint

The springs in Seattle can be described by two words: unending rain. Only native Seattlites can brave this incessant drizzle without a feeling of a slow and painful drowning, but even grizzled Northwesterners can sometimes feel a little depressed when each new day brings rain without hope of summer. Often it drives us inside to the comfort of our couches and kitchens, and it was on such a dreary March evening that I plopped down in my my favorite armchair to watch “The Bucket List.”

Overall, I didn’t much find the movie that interesting. But afterward, in a spurt of aimless creativity, I decided to start my own bucket list. Never mind that I was only 20 years old, and it would hopefully be decades before I really had to worry about what I had accomplished in my life. It would probably also be decades before I had enough money/time to do any of the things on my bucket list anyway. To combat my boredom, I wrote down everything I could remember wanting to do. I stuffed the sheet of paper in my drawer and forgot about it.

Several weeks later I found myself pulling it out and really looking at all the things I wished I could do. I crossed out a couple of silly things and added several new entries. I posted it on my refrigerator door and marked some of the smaller, easier ones that I could work on right now. With a reminder posted where I could see it nearly every day, I was astounded to realize how much of my time I spent on menial, repetitious tasks when I could have been doing something better with my time.

I eventually gave away my TV because I spent too many rainy nights watching movies, and I cancelled my Facebook account. With a keen eye on my bucket list, I taught myself French and threw a tea party in my living room, complete with a Mad Hatter hat. I jumped into Lake Washington in the snow on New Year’s Day, and I kissed a man–a complete stranger–on the mouth when I saw him picking out a book I loved at a bookstore.

I can’t say why I wrote, “Kiss a complete stranger” on my bucket list, but he and I have been together since that day. He has added items to my list and helped me check others off.

I got over my fear of heights when I rock-climbed a mountain in Colorado at dawn. I forgave my father for abandoning our family. And while there are things on my bucket list I’m not sure I’ll ever accomplish, such as meeting the President, bungee jumping (okay, I lied–I didn’t completely get over my fear of heights) and flying to the moon, the list on my fridge is a constant reminder of how I should be living each day to its fullest and treating every action with ceremony. After all, someday when someone asks me what I wish I could have done with my life, I hope I’ll be able to answer, “I did everything I ever told myself I wanted to do.”

Except, maybe, make Seattle springs any less wet.

***

To get your copies:

Winter and Spring are both available through the Tending Your Inner Garden Bookstore. Winter is also available on Amazon and Spring soon will be.

Links:

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tending-Your-Inner-Garden/117449911667979
Twitter: @YourInnerGarden
Blog: http://tendingyourinnergarden.com/
GoldenTree Communications

Find Pattie on her website: http://pattieflint.weebly.com/ and follow her on Twitter @PattieFlint

Saving up sunshine

Okay, I know it’s hot. Predicted to be 107 degrees today. I know it’s dry. The driest in Iowa since the 1950s. There can hardly be a soul out there who wouldn’t like to see clouds. I find any square inch of shade when I’m outside and huddle there. But I also know the days are not so far off when I will wish I could see some of this sunshine again.

Cutting corn on the deck

I thought about that as my husband and I set about processing the first sweet corn to come out of the garden. Most vegetables ripen over time. But when corn comes on, it’s all at once.

My husband does his best to spread the pleasure out by planting rows at two-week intervals. We ate the first ears out of the first planting last night for supper. This morning, I picked the rest of that planting. He put sawhorses and a board out on the deck. I gathered pans and knives and dug out the recipe for freezing corn in the 1980 Preston, Iowa, Country Cook Book.

I can never forget how hot it was processing corn on the farm. On what always seemed to be the hottest days of the year, Mom hauled out the biggest pots and filled them with water. While the water came to a boil, we husked corn. Then, in a kitchen that could have passed for a sauna, we blanched the ears, threw them in sinks full of cold water and when the ears were cool enough to touch, cut the kernels off the cobs and packed them in boxes for the freezer. In my memory, processing corn on the farm took approximately forever.

Then my mother in law showed me how to freeze raw corn. No blanching. No hot kitchen. Done in minutes. Ever year I am thankful to her. If you’re looking for an easy way to do corn, here’s the recipe:

Freezing Raw Corn

15 c. corn
3/4 c. sugar
5 c. ice water
1/4 c. salt

Mix together. Put in containers and freeze. (I’ve used a little less sugar and a little less salt and had good results. It’s a matter of taste.)

Corn ready to freeze

I’m telling you it doesn’t get easier than that. It’s a bonus that when you eat this corn, it tastes as though it’s right off the cob, which it is because it’s never been cooked before. We started setting up at 11:30 a.m. and I put 10 pints of corn in the freezer 1 1/4 hours later.

The corn was so fresh, so yellow. Just like sunshine. I know we’ll enjoy some of that sunshine this winter.

What to do with all those cukes?

Every morning I grab a big colander and head out to bring in whatever the garden has to offer. For the past week or so, I’ve been getting about a half dozen or so cucumbers each day. There’s also zucchini, summer squash, broccoli, and yesterday, the first handful of green beans, but those are the subject of another post.

The sustained temperatures of 100+ this week have slowed some plants down, but not the cucumbers. It’s at times like this I pull out Mom’s recipe for Refrigerator Pickles. They’re tasty. They’re easy. And you don’t need to know anything about canning.  If that sounds good to you, here’s the recipe.

Refrigerator Pickles

7 cups thinly sliced, unpeeled cucumbers (I like cucumbers that are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Not too big)
1 green pepper sliced thin (I like the color, so I use half a green pepper and half a red pepper)
1 onion sliced thin

Mix to dissolve and pour over pickles cold:
2 c sugar
1 c water
1 c white vinegar
1 tsp pickling salt
1 T celery seed
1 T mustard seed

Soak overnight in syrup. Then pack in containers for the refrigerator. They will keep in the refrigerator for a year.

I use pint jars because they fit on any refrigerator shelf and tuck into corners. Put lids on tight but they don’t have to be canned or sealed. It’s more to keep the syrup in if the jar tips over for some reason. I usually let the jars sit for a couple of weeks just to give the pickles a chance to marinate in the syrup.

Mom had pickles on the table for dinner and supper most days. Dad liked a little sour taste with most meals. We don’t eat pickles nearly so often, but these satisfy the need and I don’t have to get into heavy canning.

Is Winter your season of renewal?

We have a special treat today, an interview with Diane Glass and Debra Engle, founders of the Tending Your Inner Garden® workshops. Diane and Debra just published Winter, the first in a series of books that shares the stories and poems of women worldwide who’ve drawn inspiration from the seasons of the year. I have the honor of being one of the women sharing my writing in their book.

Diane and Debra are giving away five copies of their book this month on their website. Read on for details of the giveaway or click here and start now. Read an excerpt from Winter below.

Thanks for joining us, Diane and Debra. Tell us about yourselves and how you came to work together.
We’ve been friends and colleagues since the 1980s. But in the early 1990s we came together as women experiencing rapid change. One of us left a corporate job in the midst of breast cancer treatment. The other married, wrote a book and moved to a new home. We experienced all the stages of change and the challenges of making transitions. That led us to ask, “Do other women need support as their lives unfold in new ways?” Ten years of experience tells us, “Yes!”

What is Tending Your Inner Garden?
Tending Your Inner Garden brings together women looking for connection, community and conversation. We create a nurturing context in which women discover what brings aliveness and joy to their lives. They do this by tuning into their inner voice of wisdom and by connecting with the spirit that animates all of creation. This search for renewal often invites change. The seasons of the year—the new growth represented by spring, the rapid change of summer, the harvest and letting go of fall, and the rest and stillness of winter—provide a wonderful guide for making that change.

Why did you decide to publish books?
In our ten years of offering the Tending Your Inner Garden program, we’ve been struck by the power of women’s stories and how honest they are about their lives. As they’ve discovered more of their inner selves, they’ve shared their wisdom, triumphs, heartaches, courage, fears and joys. And so we thought it was time to publish books, letting more women’s voices be heard and extending the community as far as the books would take us.

As we sit here in the heat of summer, it feels odd to be thinking about winter. Why did you start with Winter?
Winter offers the gift of dormancy and solitude, both in short supply in today’s world. Too often we strive for continual productivity, at the expense of pausing, reflecting and discerning. This leads us to make decisions that reflect the priorities of the outside world, rather than the insights of our own hearts and souls. Although we think of spring as the time of new beginning, often that beginning starts with the period of rest and renewal offered by winter.

Who are the authors and how did you find them?
We posted a call for entries on our site, and then we used the connectivity of the Internet to help us spread the word. We posted it on Facebook, of course, and it ended up appearing on other people’s blogs and in writer’s groups in other countries. In some instances, we asked women specifically to submit, knowing the power of their writing and their story.

What do you hope for people who read these books?
We hope that women will see they’re not alone. The material covers so much ground—being a new mom, experiencing unexpected changes, understanding yourself better as you grow older, the value of friendship, etc.—that we’re guessing every reader will see herself somewhere in the book. For instance, Paula Sampson contributed a powerful piece on grieving the death of her son. For any woman who has lost a child, that essay will give solace and inspiration.

What are your plans for the other seasons?
We welcome submissions for all the other seasons. Our next book will feature the experience of Spring in women’s lives. That might include experiencing new growth emerging through the soil of their lives, cultivating a rich environment, or envisioning what they would like to grow. Women interested in sending us a poem, story or essay can find additional information here about guidelines for submission.

Thanks for joining us, Diane and Debra. I wish you the best through all the seasons!

Win a copy of Winter. Debra and Diane would like here how you’ve drawn inspiration from the seasons. Click here and share your story on their blog for a chance to win one of five copies they’re giving away this month.

About the Editors

Debra Engle and Diane Glass

Debra Engle is the author of Grace from the Garden: Changing the World One Garden at a Time and the owner of GoldenTree Communications, publisher of On Thundering Wings, Semi-Sweetness and Light and other books of artistry, new thought and inspiration.

Diane Glass serves as a spiritual director, working both with individuals and groups. She is a member of the staff of PrairieFire, a program of spiritual renewal and growth, at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.

Links:

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tending-Your-Inner-Garden/117449911667979
Twitter: @YourInnerGarden
Blog: http://tendingyourinnergarden.com/
GoldenTree Communications

Winter: Women’s Stories, Poems and Inspiration for the Season of Rest and Renewal is available from the editors at: Tending Your Inner Garden and on Amazon

An Excerpt from Winter

Courting Winter
By Angela Renkoski

SWF seeks wise mature man for solitude and contemplation. Must like long walks in the snow, heart-to-hearts by the fire, and enlightenment from silence. Best if able to tolerate, even appreciate, darkness and cold, and long nights and short days.

This would have been my personal newspaper ad in the years before online dating questionnaires—if I had known my true soul mate was closer to Old Man Winter than the more summery Adonises I set my eyes on. For too long I chased after the gorgeousness of spring’s lushness, the lust of summer’s bounty, and even the looming ache of fall’s harvest, and skittered away from winter’s, well, wintry, advances.

When I first faced that I might be in winter in my soul, it was early fall outside, my favorite time of year. But I was reaping nothing inside and couldn’t bear the thought that the frozen, barren picture I had of winter also described my inner world. The deeper fear was that this icy void I associated with the season would last forever—not an unreasonable fear in Iowa where I was living at the time.

After much howling at the wind in protest, I surrendered and could say without reservation, shame, regret, or fear: “I am in winter. And that’s OK.” Until then, I was more attuned outward to bright appearances and the opinions of others for happiness and security. These wilted, however, when met with adversity and were doomed to disappoint the more I depended on them, sacrificing the authenticity of Self.

Learning how nature works drew me to appreciate winter’s charms. When I looked about, I thought all was dead. Not so. Winter is the time when the trees put down new roots. In dormancy, plants and flowers prepare for new growth or suspend activity in wait for the more favorable warmth of sun and showers.

Braced with this knowledge, I peeked at and then contemplated the winter of my discontent. I came to see that it is in winter that my center is cultivated and strengthened. Like a hibernating bear, I had plenty to draw from and sustain me as I peacefully slowed down and rested in Spirit, content and less distracted by the outside world. It became a time of tremendous healing and recharging and a metaphor for seeing what was previously ignored or resisted in a new light.

In embracing winter, I also came to love previously dismissed and hidden parts of myself. Like a sled dog burrowing into the snow, I pulled within and curled around my soul, affording myself insulation from the dark and cold. I drew all the pieces of my past into my heart so it throbbed and glowed with life and love—an ember upon which I would fan the flames of growth in spring.

Now I court winter, looking for those times I am called to go within. And winter seduces me with the sensory pleasures of romance: candlelight, roses, and music that warms the soul. I take long walks in whatever snow is on the ground, hunker down next to fireplaces in coffeehouses and restaurants, and spend more time in the exquisite silence of the season.

Winter is not so distant and forbidding, nor so interminable. It is a time that begs for the space to encompass activities, thoughts and fears, a space that allows for new perspectives to breathe and stretch and put down roots in quiet and safety. Come hither, Winter. Come hither, Self.

My son is a good dad, too!

Dad and his girls

My son stopped by recently with his oldest daughter. It was a whirlwind visit, but 3-year-old Hannah ensured we did a little bit of everything. We used the swing and slide. We picked peas and pulled kohlrabi.  We explored the prairie and played with a neighbor’s cat. We checked out the basement because Hannah informed me she’d never seen our basement before. Ever.

While they were here, my son and I had a dozen small pieces of conversation about a dozen different topics. Each time we began to talk, Hannah came up with a new topic to interrupt us. It reminded me very much of when Lance was little and we went to visit my parents. I was still their child, yet I was a mom, too.

Over the years, I’d think about the children my son might have someday. I always imagined he’d be a good dad if he got the chance. And, he is.

Working in the garden

He has spent many Saturday mornings with Hannah running through the exercises in a gymnastics class. They read together daily. They have a dad/daughter craft time on the weekends. He’s teaching her about gardening like his dad and I (and his grandparents) taught him. Because he encourages her to work right along side him, she’s undeterred by dirt. Bugs fascinate her.

When we visited the garden, Hannah picked peas, bit off the stems and spit them on the ground before she ate the pods. Just like her dad! She found her own way into and through the prairie and didn’t even realize she lost a flip-flop on the journey. She loves nature and is ready to explore. Like her dad.

Now my son has another daughter. Eliza took her first steps recently and Dad was there cheering her on. He is a good dad. He’s patient and loving. He teaches and leads. He’s firm and nurturing. He’s involved now.

My son will always be my son, but now he’s a dad, too. And I’m oh, so proud of him. Happy Father’s Day, Lance!